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Showing posts from September, 2014

Invisible Diversity

Diversity in young adult fiction: There's plenty of great information out there already about that topic. In fact, before I get any further, I'll just leave this here:

Diversity in YA

That's a link to the Diversity in YA blog, founded by fantastic YA authors Malinda Lo and Cindy Pon.  Read it.  Talk about the stuffs on it.  Really.

There, that's done.

Now a little story.

I was driving my daughter to daycare last week and passed a fellow mowing his lawn.  Nothing unusual, except that he was black.  In our predominantly white and Hispanic town, there was only one black family that I knew of, and I had met them a few times and knew where they lived.  This guy was new.  "Yay!" I thought.  "Our town just got a little more diverse."

And it had.  But as I drove on, I thought about that happy-fuzzy feeling that "diversity" gives us (I get it looking around my workplace, for instance--a mix of races and backgrounds and ages all working together) and…

B-Movies and Writing: The Beginning of the End and Knowing Your Limits

I've blogged before about my love of B movies and the lessons they can impart to the fiction writer. I dissected the plot of Plan Nine from Outer Space to to discover what didn't work (answer? Nothing worked). I examined the effectiveness of the characters in Eegah (conclusion: when a hairy man-beast from a prehistoric era is your most likeable character, you have a problem).

Last night I indulged in The Beginning of the End, in which 1950s hysteria over atomic anything resulted in a movie about a cloud of giant locusts swarming Chicago.

I love a good giant bug movie. ThemThe Deadly MantisHorrors of Spider Island. All good stuff. In a really bad way. But they can illustrate very well the age-old principle of biting off more than you can chew.

Lesson? If you can't swallow an entire swarm of giant locusts, don't bite one. Or something like that.

So the plot is skimpy, the characters are sketches. I'm not going to nitpick this, because in your average movie about…

B-Movies and Writing : Eeegah and Character Development

I have a penchant for horrible science fiction movies. Not decent stuff like The Day the Earth Stood Still. No, terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad monstrosities like Plan 9 From Outer Space. Terror from the Year 5000. Phantom Planet. Robot Monster.

As I was enjoying Eegah last week, I couldn't help but notice what lessons a writer could learn from the mistakes made by bad filmmaking. Eegah is the story of a young woman and her father who are, for reasons not entirely explained, kidnapped by Eegah, a prehistoric caveman (who may or may not be a giant, depending on the particular camera angle at any given frame) and their rescue by the young woman's unintentionally icky boyfriend (who looks like a ferret).
So, a few lessons on making your characters likeable and believable from a movie that did the exact opposite.
1) Stop saying "Wheee." No one says "Wheee." In one otherwise useless scene, the leading lady, Roxy, and her ferret-faced boyfriend, Tom, are ri…

On Being a Good Beta Reader

I have a confession.  I've been a shoddy beta reader lately.

I've been very busy with the rest of my life--work picked up, I had a ton to put together for a big reenactment event--and beta reading fell by the wayside.

My brief lapse got me thinking about the ways in which one can be a better beta.  Beta reading is not only a great way to offer help to writer-friends (WFs in my weird shorthand), but it can really help you, too.  Reading other's not-quite-there work helps you learn how to revise your own.  Plus, building relationships is a huge bonus of beta-reading.  It's my view that a beta reader can develop into a true critique partner--someone with whom you have an honest and beneficial writer-friend relationship far greater than the usual community support.  ('Cause writers tend to be pretty supportive people in general, you know!)

1) Be realistic with yourself. Simple in theory, harder in execution.

Be honest--do you have time to read and reply in a relatively…

Bad Movies and Writing: Ah, Yes. Plan 9.

Ah, yes. Plan 9. If you haven't seen the celluloid abuse that is Plan 9 From Outer Space, get thee to a rental place or Netflix and view immediately. Considered by many to be the worst film ever made, Edward D. Wood Jr.'s Plan 9 has everything wrong with it--crappy acting, terrible writing, laughable sets, wacky editing choices. An example of the absurdity: Star of the film Bela Lugosi died before filming was complete, and a stand-in who looks nothing like him is used for the rest of the film. He holds a cape over his face, so you "can't tell." Another example: The flying saucers are clearly pie plates glued together and suspended by (visible) strings, making the world's wobbliest spacecraft.

But the worst might be the plot. The strings holding the story together are, unfortunately, much more tenuous than those suspending the pie plate saucers. In short, it's not one of those "good story, bad execution" problems--but I managed to glean some less…

Saving the Best for Last

I have a friend who loves Dickens.  (I don't hold this against her.)  She's read and loved everything old Chuck wrote, from the well-known Great Expectations  and Christmas Carol stock to the lesser known short stories and novellas.

What she hasn't read?  Our Mutual Friend.

And I loved her reason--she's saving it.

Dickens is, in his own colorful terms, "dead as a doornail" so certainly isn't writing any more.  Once you've read the last plot twist, the last unique character, the last ending,  you're done. You can re-read, of course--and I'm a huge proponent of re-reading beloved novels--but the last surprise has been had.

I just bought a new book this weekend--four novels in one volume by one of my absolute favorite writers, Irene Nemirovsky.   Though Nemirovsky died in 1942 (ethnically Jewish, she was sent to a Auschwitz and died there at the age of 39), I have one advantage over my friend and Dickens--not all of her work has been translated …

Confession: I Love Crappy B-Movies

I love bad old movies.  If it involves a radioactive gigantic bug trying to eat a major American city, or a prehistoric creature birthed from a glacier attacking coastal Japan, or aliens or mad scientists or Creatures from Any Black Body of Water, I'm in.

Proof?  This is the poster decorating my living room wall:


Yes, John Agar's notquiteclassic about a subterranean civilization.  And mole people, of course.
Little known fact: "B" in "B Movie" does not stand for "Bad" or "B-Grade" but for "Budget."  They were movies made with lower budgets and often released directly to dive theaters and drive-ins rather than taking up precious marquee space.  Because who goes to the drive-in to actually watch the movie, right?  But they often were pretty Bad, too.
In any case, what do crappy B movies have to do with writing?
They're excellent examples of what not to do.  
Seriously.  Writers should read, a read widely, and learn from good …